Why I’m Done with Fictional Women’s Armor and Clothing
Recently I found a blog about the portrayal of women in armor in games, movies, comics, and TV shows. The blog came with its own made up bingo game, that included tiles like “wears knee high boots” or “shows over-excessive amounts of skin”. I became angrier and more disappointed when I realized how many female characters I could apply this to.
Women in scantily clad clothing and armor really became a “thing” when comics were first created, around the 1920s to 1930s or so. It’s become an even worse phenomenon in recent years, not only because the practice of showing women in such impractical and degrading outfits has persisted, but it’s also a mainly male dominated industry that has convinced itself that female warriors and superheroines need to dress this way.
As a female, feminist, and huge fan of fantasy, sci-fi, action, and comics, one of the things that infuriates me the most is seeing women in armor that makes no sense. What’s worse is when said women appear alongside men in practical armor.
I decided to start tackling the issue with my twin brother, a person who also enjoys sci-fi and fantasy, and who, like me, has seen many comic book based movies. I brought up the most recent cinematic version of Wonder Woman, and compared her to the most recent Superman and Batman, asking him what he thought of Wonder Woman’s leotard and “boob armor” compared to Batman’s robotic armor and Superman’s full-body suit. After arguing a bit, he told me that the directors and creators probably just wanted to keep some things similar to the comics, and that’s why Wonder Woman was still in her leotard.
First, that was the only “good” answer, I could get.
Second, the cinematic universes of Marvel and DC have made major changes to beloved comic characters, especially in terms of outfit. Hawkeye from the Avengers is probably the best example. To fit his role of SHIELD spy, and so he wouldn’t look ridiculous, Hawkeye’s rather flamboyant purple outfit from the comics was ditched for his black spy gear. Batman’s mecha suit in Dawn of Justice is not Batman’s normal suit, but rather something that was used for plot purposes in the movie. I’d also like to point out that because of recent changes (that I would call improvements in diversity), we have a more diverse cast. Characters like the Human Torch, Nick Fury, and Finn from StarWars are black characters in normally white roles. Future movies will have Thor be a girl. The idea of “sticking to exactly what the comics say” has been thrown out the window, and it’s probably for the better.
But why then do people (especially men it seems) insist on action women wearing ridiculous clothes?
It’s degrading, it’s impractical, and it doesn’t make sense for multiple reasons.
Armor is supposed to be rounded and smooth so weapons bounce off. The moment someone adds grooves into that armor, even to show where a women’s boobs are, that armor loses quality basically. The armor becomes weaker where the grooves are. If you have weaker armor, you have a higher chance of injury or death. Same thing goes for armor covering. You don’t see many of the male characters showing any skin. They’re covered head to toe in practical clothes or armor, and for some reason, the women have an armor-plated bikini for “protection”. Comic book artists and many men will try to insist that less clothes means women can more easily move around. In actuality, it becomes easier to get injured because someone can stab you right in the stomach while you’re last thoughts are disbelief at the fact you wore a crop top to a battle. And if less clothes equaled more mobility, we would see Captain America in strapless leotards.
And for anyone who has no knowledge of armor, you do not just put it on over your skin. You wear a heck ton of padding underneath it; so much padding that your body shape would not be obvious. So your body shape wouldn’t even show anyways, making women armor completely pointless, not to mention idiotic to the point of death. Literally.
Having scantily clad women go into battle is NOT empowering. It does not make moving any easier, it certainly doesn’t protect them. It’s embarrassing, ridiculous, and impractical. If I asked any man OR woman, I think they would choose full-body armor or protective gear for a war over a leotard or a swimsuit. That should be obvious. But I’ve still got to put up with the “empowering” Wonder Woman. A character who, despite her strengths, runs into battle in knee high boots and what has to be the most uncomfortable top.
The men creating and designing these characters don’t seem to get it yet. The men watching these movies insist it’s fine and the portrayal isn’t sexist. Easy for them to say. They can look up to Batman and IronMan and Captain America and Aragorn and they will never worry about the clothes those characters are wearing. My brother and cousins are never going to wonder why Iron Man would show his bare stomach into battle, or why Thor decided his boots needed 3 inch heels. I and countless other women will still be wondering why Wonder Woman doesn’t cover her cleavage or why Super Girl wears a skirt while flying.